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American Fuel Economy Just Hit a Record, Thanks to EVs and Hybrids

The EPA’s numbers show the biggest improvements in almost a decade, despite America’s thirst for ever-larger trucks and SUVs.

Electric cars.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is out with its annual Automotive Trends Report for 2022 model-year vehicles, and the numbers are some of the best it’s seen. Average emissions are at a record low and fuel economy is at a record high — and according to preliminary 2023-model-year data, those trends will continue into the new year.

Overall, the EPA says average real-world CO2 emissions for new vehicles sold in 2022 dropped by 10 grams of carbon dioxide per mile for an average of 337 g/mile, the lowest the agency has recorded. On the other side, fuel economy averages are at 26 miles per gallon, an improvement of 0.6 MPG and another record high for new vehicles sold.

Of the five categories of vehicles tested, four are the most fuel efficient the agency has seen since its inception, with crossovers (what the EPA classifies as “car SUVs”) showing the biggest drop in emissions at 27 g/mile, followed by pickup trucks, sedans/wagons, minivans, and SUVs.

The not-so-good-news is the EPA also recorded its highest number of SUVs, pickups, and minivans/vans sold since 1975, accounting for a whopping 63% of new vehicles that rolled off dealer lots. And across the board, 2022 vehicles were also the heaviest and largest ever sold.

This is primarily due to two things: First, automaker safety is at an all-time high, swelling cars with better crumple zones, dozens of airbags, and scads of active safety systems. Second, Americans just like big vehicles with more power — what the EPA calls “market trends.” That likely won’t change with 2023’s numbers.

Thankfully, there will be more EVs and hybrids coming to market, which should help to offset some of the emissions. Electrics helped reduce average emissions by 22 g/mile in 2022 and increased overall fuel economy by 1.2%, and projections for the next report show an even bigger boost to 26.9 MPG in 2023.

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Damon Lavrinc

Damon Lavrinc is a freelance writer and industrial design student focused on the future of transportation. A former driving instructor and communications professional, Damon is the co-founder of the Autonocast and led transportation technology coverage at WIRED, Jalopnik, and other outlets. Read More

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Sparks

Coal’s Slowdown Is Slowing Down

Rising electricity demand puts reliability back on the table.

Pollution.
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The United States has been able to drive its greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level since the early 1990s largely by reducing the amount of energy on the grid generated by coal to a vast extent. In 2005, by far the predominant source of U.S. electricity, making up some 2.2 million gigawatt-hours of the country’s 4.3 million GWh total energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. In 2022, by contrast, coal generation was down to 900,000 GWh out of 4.5 million GWh generated. As a result, “U.S. emissions are 15.8% lower than 2005 levels, while power emissions are 40% lower than 2005 levels,” according to BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

But the steady retirement of coal plants may be slowing down. Only 2.3 GW of coal generating capacity are set to be shut down so far in 2024, according to the Energy Information Administration. While in 2025, that number is expect to jump up to 10.9 GW, the combined 13.2 GW of retired capacity pales in comparison of the more than 22 GW retired in the past two years, according to EIA figures. Over the past decade, coal retirements have averaged about 10 GW a year, with actual retirements often outpacing forecasts.

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Trump Thinks EV Charging Will Cost $3 Trillion — Which Is Incorrect

Nor will charging infrastructure ”bankrupt” the U.S.

Electric car charging.
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Shortly after being fined $350 million (more than $450 million, including interest) over fraudulent business practices and then booed at Sneaker Con, former President Donald Trump traveled to Waterford, Michigan, where he said some incorrect things about electric vehicles.

Even by Trump’s recent standards, Saturday’s Waterford rally was a bit kooky. During his nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech, the former president claimed that his opponents are calling him a whale (“I don’t know if they meant a whale from the standpoint of being a little heavy, or a whale because I got a lot of money”) and, improbably, claimed not to have known what the word “indictment” meant.

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This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

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